May 28, 2010

Hey Dan,

It is Memorial Day weekend again.  Hard to believe this is the 5th year of going to the Clarksville
Town Hall and seeing your name written on that wall.  Our wounds are still too fresh.  Each time I
hear TAPS played or jump at the sound of a rifle, I flash back to that horrible day when we laid
you to rest. We all really miss you.  You were such an honest, caring, and brave individual.  You
loved the Army and served your country well.

You were also an amazing brother. Even when you messed up, we could not stay mad at you
once you smiled and showed us your cute dimple.  You were so easy to talk to and were there
for us whenever we needed you. You were honorable at a young age.  I remember the time that
you and Jason were playing with a feather duster while doing our chores.  You dusted the top of
my halogen lamp while it was on and discovered the feather duster would start to smoke.  Shortly
after that I came home from work to discover my lamp looked a little different.  When I mentioned
it, you confessed that you and Jason had broken the old one. You said you spent all afternoon
trying to find a lamp just like it so I would not notice, or at least be less angry since you replaced
it.  Not many people would do that.  

You mentioned to me once that you were afraid Kelly would not know you anymore after having
to be away from home so long when you enlisted in the Army.  She was just a baby and growing
quickly.  I told you she would always know who her Uncle Dan is, that I would tell her about you,
show her pictures, and have her talk with you on the phone.  I guess you did not take my word
for it because whenever you came home you managed to have a stuffed animal for her.  One
year you made her a Koala from Build A Bear.  You even picked out really cute girly clothes and
some sunglasses for it. (I think Lisa might have helped.)  Kelly sleeps with that bear every night
and has since the day you died.  She even brought it to the funeral home.  She keeps it on her
bed with all of her other “Uncle Dan bears”.  You always gave her bears, but were smart enough
to make sure they were not Teddy Bears because I would want them.

I made a scrap book about you a few months after you passed.  It has all kinds of stories,
pictures, and a few articles about you in there.  I just wanted to make sure that Kelly’s children
and the generations that follow will get to know you and keep your memory alive.

So much has happened since you died. You have 6 nieces and 3 nephews. Jason and Chrissy
are expecting soon, so you will have one more in a few months.  I hate that you are not here to
see all of them. They are all growing up so fast. Lincoln will be a freshman in high school this
fall.  Kelly is going into sixth grade. Summer is starting first grade. Ethan is going into
Kindergarten, and the younger ones are changing almost daily.    

I recently got married to Jason.  You met him while I was living with Dad before and after Kelly
was born.  He was in the Army…you were still in high school then.  He was stationed at Fort Knox
and would come to visit.  He was in Iraq the same time you were.  His unit deployed a few weeks
before yours.  He would call to give me updates on things over there.  I always asked him to try
and find you so he could keep you safe.  I guess I did not realize that would be like trying to find
a needle in a hay stack at the time.  He got a 15 day leave two weeks before you did.  He called
to tell me he was on leave and that you would be getting a leave soon too.  Sure enough a few
days later we got the call that you were coming home.  I am so glad we got to spend those few
days with you.  I just wish that we could have had more time.

I can feel your presence with us often.  It is the strongest when we are all gathered together as a
family.  I think each of us carries a piece of you in our hearts and when we get together you
really shine.  I can tell this because you always had a peaceful energy about you.  It was very
unique.  Family events were always a little uncomfortable for me.  I always felt like an outsider
and I did not belong.  Talking to you or sitting next to you would make me feel better.  I always
tended to gravitate toward you.  Even though you were the quietest we all seemed to just be
drawn to you.  Family events are so easy for me now.  They aren’t awkward anymore and it is
almost like you are still sitting next to me.  

It doesn’t seem right that life continues on without you. It is definitely different.  Our hearts still
ache and will never be healed, but with each day it gets a little easier.  I know we will all be
together again one day.  Until then, rest peacefully and know that we love you. We miss you, and
we are thinking of you often.